SchoolFamily Voices

Join our bloggers as they share their experiences on the challenges and joys of helping children succeed in school.

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Are you a parent who would like to help your child’s school? Maybe even help it win $10,000? Enter your school in the Frigo® Cheese Heads® Build a Bright Future Promotion, and you will have a chance to do just that.

The promotion entry period runs now through Sept. 30, 2015. Frigo® Cheese Heads® will award three schools a $10,000 prize and another seven schools a $1,000 prize.

Parents, teachers, and adults over 21 years old can nominate a school with a short essay of between 50 and 200 words that creatively describes something that would benefit students. Make your pitch interesting! And, it should be something that can realistically be accomplished for $10,000. For inspiration, check out the entries for the 2014 winners!

After the nomination period ends on Sept. 30, judges will select 10 entries as finalists. The public will have an opportunity to vote on the finalists from Oct. 12 through Oct. 31. Winners will be announced in late November.

Make sure to tell your friends and other parents about this promotion because the more nominations a school receives, the better a chance it has at winning. You could turn a good idea into something useful for your child’s school! Get the details on how to submit a nomination and the contest rules here. Good luck!

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Are you a parent who can think of something your child’s school could use? Could you describe it in 50 to 200 words?

Build a Bright Future PromotionThen you have a chance to win $4,000 for your school in the Frigo® Cheese Heads® Build a Bright Future Promotion.

The promotion entry period runs now through Sept. 30, 2014. Five schools will be awarded a $4,000 prize to be used toward the purchase of an enhancement for the school. Parents, teachers, and adults over 21 years old can nominate a school with a short essay of between 50 and 200 words that creatively describes something that would benefit students.

The trick is to nominate a school with an idea that is interesting and also feasible with the $4,000 prize.

The nomination period ends Sept. 30. Judges will select 10 entries as finalists. The public will have an opportunity to vote on the finalists on Frigo Cheese Heads’ Facebook from Oct. 13 through Oct. 31. Winners will be announced in mid-November. In addition to five schools winning $4,000, an additional five schools will win $1,000 prizes.

So put on those thinking caps and get creative! Tell your friends and other parents about this promotion because the more nominations a school receives, the better a chance it has at winning. You could turn an idea into a reality for your child’s school!

Good luck!

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I went to a meeting at my kids’ school the other night and the teacher was talking about how the hum from the old computers in the school computer lab is so loud,  it literally gives you a headache! Ouch. Not good for the teachers, not good for the students. But like so many school districts, funds are tight so some say you take an aspirin and move on. Or do you?

I was very excited to learn that SchoolFamily.com is partnering with Lenovo for their Dream to Do Contest! By entering this contest your school can win a technology makeover valued at $50,000. I can’t think of any schools that could not use that!  Not only is the prize amazing, but Lenovo is demonstrating their commitment to education by providing teachers with some terrific tools to enhance learning.  They have created a “What will you do when you grow up” career lesson kit for grades kindergarten through 8.  As a parent of a senior in high school, I for one think it’s never too early for teachers to start exposing kids to career options. 

Here’s how you can enter your school into the Dream to Do Contest:

  • Grab some crayons or markers and get your kids drawing. K-8 students can submit a drawing of what they want to DO when they grow up, accompanied by a sentence.
  • Vote once per day on drawing submissions from your school – and tell friends and family to vote too!

And oh, by registering you’re automatically entered to win a THINKPAD X130e. Visit http://www.lenovodreamtodo.com/technologymakeover for all the details.  Get those kids thinking about what they want to do when they grow up and grab the markers. Best of luck.

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Yesterday was the first day of school in my town. I met up with a bunch of moms after bus stop time to swap stories. Fortunately everyone in our bunch went off to school happily.

The back-to-school mood of the group was divided. Some moms were practically singing "It’s the most wonderful time of the year." Others were sad their kids would be gone all day and that summer was over. But there was one topic that everyone agreed on: they were dreading the onslaught of homework, especially the younger kids' reading logs. Nobody likes to play the homework police, and these moms had particular disdain for reading logs! One mom said she felt it caused undue stress on her kindergartener last year. Another mom said that she felt like it was turning reading into a chore. 

I would love to hear what you think about teacher assigned reading logs … Do you think they work?  How do your kids feel about them? Do you think there is a good alternative to reading charts? Leave a comment below for a chance to win a Smarty Ants Phonics Reading Pup*. The first 15 comments will receive a pup of their very own. Best part is you don’t have to walk it or clean up after it.

*Full disclosure: The Reading Pup is subscription-based product. You will receive a free 30-day membership to Smartyants.com with your Reading Pup. After the 30 days, SmartyAnts starts at $24.99 for 3 months, or $49.99 for a full year.


Did you know that on average, teachers spend $462 of their own money to buy supplies for their classroom?  

Enter TeacherWishList.com! This new site was launched last week by School Family Media (our parent company), with support from Procter & Gamble’s Bounty brand. TeacherWishList.com takes the old-fashioned printed wish list and makes it a lot more new-fashioned by using the web, email tools and even social media. Teachers can load their lists (or parents or your PTO can load the lists for them) and then share and update the lists and basically get the help they deserve.  Pretty cool. 

Since the launch last week, over 4,000 teachers have already signed up and entered wish lists. Think this speaks to how easy the site is for parents and teachers to use. There’s even a free kit that has a poster and flyers to help you promote the program at your school. 

To celebrate the new site, Teacher Wish List’s sponsor, Bounty, is giving away some amazing prizes: 

A $25,000 Art Room Makeover

Each school that submits five or more wish lists will be entered for a chance to win the grand prize: a $25,000 art room makeover with the help of a designer.

Weekly Giveaways

Ten teachers each week will receive a $462 prize to help fulfill their classroom wish lists. Weekly winners will be posted in the Recent News section on TeacherWishList.com.

So scoot. Go check out TeacherWishList.com to get the full scoop on all the giveaways and to sign up your school! And be sure to tell teachers and your friends who have school-age kids.  This is one of these times that we all win... teachers, schools, parents, and most importantly our kids!



Closing out this week with some good news and some good reads! We are happy to announce the 2 winners of the Summer Reading List Sweepstakes. Congrats go to:

Gina Lovejoy from California

Shelly Rogers from Missouri

Judging from all the wonderful book suggestions, we have no doubt that Gina and Shelly will have no problem figuring out how to spend their $200 Amazon gift card.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this children's reading list! The response was phenomenal and we are happy to have have such a great list of books for you to check out. Next time you go to the library be sure to bring this list along! 

A few notes about the list below. The book titles are sorted by PreK-3, grades 4-6, t(w)een reads, and books that you said everyone would love. There are some books that appear in multiple categories. In some cases, folks suggested a book series and in others they suggested a specific book in the series. I kept both on the list.

Happy reading to you and your family! 



The Gruffalo

The Quilt

Junie B Jones 

There is a Monster at the End of This Book

Should I Share My Ice Cream?

Junie B. Jones- First Grader at Last

Ladybug Girl and the Bug Squad

Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon

Little Bear's Cruncharoo Cookies

Harold and the Purple Crayon

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

Peter's Chair

Green Eggs and Ham

Love You Forever

Pout Pout Fish

Let it Snow

Good Night Moon

Children’s Bible

Goosebumbs Short Stories

Elmo's First Babysitter.


Ben 10 Series

Otto Grows Down

The Magical Ms. Plum

Horrible Harry

The Lorax

Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce

The Scrambled States of America

Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus

Going to Sleep on the Farm

The Fantastic Mr. Fox


I Like Me

Clam I Am

Eddie's Kitchen

Go Away Big Green Monster

Ladybug Girl and Bumblebee Boy

Geronimo Stilton Chapter Books

The Kissing Hand

The Napping House

Purple Princess wins a Prize

Oh, The Places You'll Go 

Skippy Jon Jones

Hunnybunny Funnybunny

Peekaboo Bunny 


According to Humphrey's Series 

Ramona and Beezus

Meet Franklin Bean

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Teeny Tiny Animals 

Bartholomew and the Oobleck

Mr. Brown Can Moo

Only Emma

Llama Llama Misses Mama

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

Caps for Sale

King Authur and the Knights of the Round Table

Guess How Much I Love You

If You Give a Pig a Pancake

Magic Tree House series 


Amazing Grace

The Giving Tree.

Chocolate Fever

Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type


Junie B Jones --'Aloha ha'

Where the Wild Thing Are 

Animal Ark: Puppies in the Pantry

When Vegetables Go Bad

I Love You Stinky Face

The Monster at the End of this Book

I Wanna Iguana

Little Airplane

Read to Tiger

Katie Kazoo

Office Buckle and Gloria

Ted and Fred Went Camping

The King Who Rained


Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog

Amelia Bedelia Goes Camping


Buzz Boy and Fly Guy

The Very Hungry Caterpillar


Press Here

Don't Let The Pigeon Stay Up Late!


Pete the Cat

How Does a Dinosaur Eat His Food?

The Magical Ms. PLum

Charlotte's Web 

Marguerite Go Wash Your Feet

The Phantom Tollbooth

'Stand Back,' Said the Elephant, 'I'm Going to Sneeze!

Walter the Farting Dog

Amelia Bedilia


I like Myself 

James and the Giant Peach

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest

Rap a Tap Tap

Here's Bojangles

Blueberries For Sal

The Spider and the Fly 

Happy Birthday Bad Kitty!

Going on a Bear Hunt

The Mouse and the Motorcycle 

How to Tame a Bully

The Moon Came Too 

Snug House Bug House

If You Give A Mouse a Pancake

A Fly Went By

Chicken Soup with Rice 

Sweet Dream Pie 

Morris Goes to School 

Winners Never Quit 

Mamma llama Series

We're Going On a Lion Hunt

The Cat in the Hat

The Foot Book

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The Bear Snores On



Grades 4-6

Series of Unfortunate Events

The Witches 

A Wrinkle in Time

Warriors Series

Mr. Popper's Penguins


The Giving Tree

Puppy Place Series

Rip Squeak and His Friends Series



The Scrambled States of America

Dork Diaries

The Sign of the Beaver

My Side of the Mountain

The Phantom Tollbooth

A Bad Case of the Stripes

The Mother-Daughter Book Club

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Series

Any of the Hank Zipzer series

Big Nate In a Class By Himself

Nate the Great

What Are Clouds Made Of

The Secret Garden

Rodrick Rules

Thea Stilton and the Mystery in Paris

Sisters Grim

American Chillers

The Berinfell Prophecies Series

The Magic Bicycle Series



The Trumpet of the Swan

Poppy series


Charlotte's Web 

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankwiler

Seven Wonders of Sassafrass Springs

Where the Red Fern Grows

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The Tilting House

The Bear Snores On

Harry Potter

Judy Moody

Biggest, Strongest, Fastest

Rap a Tap Tap

Here's Bojangles

The World According to Humphrey

Maui and the Secret of Fire 

The Lightening Thief

Junie Moon series

Tintin series

The Shadow Children

Runaway Twin 

Gooney Bird Greene

Ranger's Apprentice Series

Dear America Series

Henry Huggins

Kingdom Keepers 

Percy Jackson & the Olympians

How to Train Your Dragon Series

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Treasure Island

Wind in the Willows

Nancy Drew Books

Hardy Boys Books

James and the Giant Peach

T(w)een reads

Red Pyramid

Once Upon a Marigold

The Hunger Games 

Are You There God, It's Me Margaret

The Hunger Games

Hunted: A House of Night Novel

The Graveyard Book




Lord of the Flies


The Throne of Fire 

Conspiracy 365 Series

Gregor the Overlander 

Satrring Sally J Freedman As Herself


Castaways of the Flying Dutchman

Room One

The Lightening Thief

The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe

The Call of the Wild

Life as We Knew it

Number the Stars 

Glaring through the Oblivion

Hazzardous Universe

Angry Young Man

The Wizard of Rondo, Vampire Island, Mystery of the Dark Tower

Chasing Vermeer 

Where the Red Fern Grows

Fablehaven:  Keys to the Demon Prison

American Chillers

Michigan Chillers Series

Little Princess


Freak the Mighty

Into the Wild

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever



Hannah Montana

3 Musketeers, 

The Mysterious Benedict Society

The Book Thief

Dying to Meet You

Secret Garden


If I Stay 

The Chronicles of Narnia

Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment

Twilight Series

Girls Acting Catty


Books for EVERYONE! 

The 5 Little Peppers

Children's Bible

Harry Potter's Series

A Wrinkle in Time

Mamma llama series

'We're Going On a Lion Hunt' 

The Giving Tree

Any Shel Silverstein book

Balloon Farm

Skippy Jon Jones 'In MummyTrouble' 

Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

The Little Prince

Reno's World: Presenting Autism and Related Disabilities to Youth 

Oh the Places You'll Go 

A Light In The Attic by Shel Silverstein 

The Foot Book

Swiss Family Robinson

The Bible

The Lorax

Guess How Much I Love You

Love you forever

Tickle's Tale

Old Yeller 




Reading programs at your local library are an awesome way to get your kids to read over the summer. But not all kids are inspired to read by these programs. Some just need that extra nudge. Turning reading into an adventure works wonders for these reluctant readers. When fall rolls around, you'll be glad you put the extra thought and effort into finding creative ways to encourage reading. Here are some fun ideas to try: 


  • Host a neighborhood or friend book swap. I had a friend who did this and gave the kids sticky notes and ask them to write a brief note about why they liked the book they were swapping. This way the book recommendation comes from a peer, not a parent… and we all know that carries much more clout! 
  • Give your child a flashlight and designate it the "reading flashlight!" Reading in bed just seems more fun when you do it by flashlight. Better yet, set up a tent in your yard and let your kids read in there with the flashlight. 
  • I am a huge advocate for frequent trips to the library but I am also a sucker when my kids ask me to buy a book. When anyone asks for suggestions for gifts for my kids, I suggest bookstore gift cards. We have a summer tradition of an outing to the bookstore to use these gift cards. Speaking of gift cards, be sure to enter our Summer Reading List Sweepstakes on our Facebook page for a chance to win a $200 Amazon gift card. Through the sweepstakes we are building a summer reading list for kids. We hope you will add your favorite children's book for a chance to win! 
  • For younger kids, instead of keeping a book log, have them keep a log of all the interesting places that they read a book.  Creating a interesting reading spot quest like this is a great way to inspire kids to read more. The places can range from inside the dog’s crate to the top of the Empire State building! This approach not only encourages reading, but also creativity, a sense of adventure, and writing. 
  • Have your kids bring their favorite books or magazines on hikes and bike rides. When it’s time to take a rest, break out the books. We started doing this with our kids when they were toddlers and I happy to say that it has become a habit (and they are now teens). 
For even more ways to keep your kids reading over the summer check out our Ideas to Encourage Summer Reading article. As always, we'd love to hear your creative ideas! 




Summer's here and that means some parents are are reveling in the lack of schedule and the slower pace, while others are anxious about all their kids' down time. If you fall into the latter category, fear not! There's no shortage of ideas for ways to keep the kids active and happy over the summer months. Here are a few, fun summer activity ideas we've come across: 

  • Maybe you have a child who uses all her spare time to write stories and poetry. Or, maybe your child is a good writer, but needs a little nudge to keep him writing over the summer. Either way, this writing contest is sure to inspire your budding writer to put pen to paper. 
  • When your child asks to watch television or YouTube videos, tell her to get on the other side of the camera! Hand over your home video camera (cell phone camera, etc.) and give your child the chance to show off his creativity and passion for the environment. There are numerous video contests for kids running at any given time, sponsored by corporations, non-profits, and more. Simply search online for "video contests for kids," and see what comes up that would be of interest to your child. 
  • Summer is a great time to encourage kids to step outside themselves. What better way to do this than getting your kids to volunteer?!  If you're not sure where to begin, try calling your local Chamber of Commerce or visit Volunteermatch.org. Both are excellent resources for volunteer opportunities.
  • Help your child tap into her inner entrepreneur and start a business over the summer. This Huffington Post article, Good Summer Business Ideas for Kids 11-17 , has some good pointers on how to get started. 
  • Our teacher blogger Connie McCarthy recently made an excellent suggestion in her post, Take Advantage of Your Town's Summer Programs. This is such an inexpensive way to have fun and stay connected with other families in your community. Stay local and save on gas, too! 

One last suggestion. All of the above are fun ways to keep kids active, but they also need some down time and, yes, time to get bored! The last thing kids need is to be over-scheduled in the summertime! 

What are your kids up to this summer? We'd love to hear what adventures and activities you have planned ... or they have planned! Share below in the comment section. 




Is it me, or does it feel like it’s tough for kids to find time to read for pleasure during the school year? Sure, there’s the book before bed, but I am talking about having a stack of books and no schedule. No soccer practice or dance lesson to run off to. Just books. 

Reason  # 834 why I love summer so much. Summer is such a fabulous time for your kids (and you!) to get lost in books! To get this lazy, hazy season off to a great start we are kicking off a Children’s Summer Reading List Sweepstakes.  Our goal: build a sensational summer reading list that will be your go-to spot for must-read kids’ books.  To make this list building even more fun, we are giving away two $200 Amazon gift cards. Everyone has a favorite children’s book, right?  Is your fav a picture book or a chapter book? 

It's easy peasy to enter -- just head over to our Facebook page and tell us your (or your child’s) favorite book for a chance to win one of 2 gift cards. Now here’s the hard part: you have to choose one book – you can only enter once*!  Be sure to tell your friends to add their favorite book too. It will be fun to see the list grow. We'll be publishing your book suggestions here on our site and highlighting the books that are the most suggested, so stay tuned. Can’t wait to read your children’s book suggestions! 

Keep your eye out for an upcoming blog post about fun ways to get your kids to read more this summer. Read a book, feed your brain. If you have any tips you’d like us to include, add them in the comment section below. 


*One sweepstakes entry per person and only those entries that complete all the fields in the entry form are eligible to win. See sweepstakes rules here

NOTE: If you run into any difficulties sharing the sweepstakes on Facebook, try using Firefox or Chrome as your browser.



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Just wanted to give you a head's up to a cool contest that one of our sponsors is running: the Play 60 Super Bowl Contest.

As parents, one of our top priorities is to keep our kids active and healthy. Sometimes it takes more than a nudge to get them out the door and active.  If this contest isn't motivation for your kids to get moving, I don't know what is! Get this: the grand prize winner will get a trip to Super Bowl XLV in North Texas on February 6, 2011? (Yep, that’s right, THE SUPER BOWL!) 

Here are the contest basics: To qualify kids take a pledge to play 60 minutes a day and answer the two questions in this writing prompt. For all the contest details and to enter the NFL Play 60 Super Bowl contest, kids should go to www.NFLRUSH.com/SuperKid.

Get those kids moving today and they'll have an easier time in school tomorrow. Contest ends December 8th, 2010.


Do you allow your children to watch TV or play on the computer before doing their homework?